Annually, Sunshine Week is a reminder of the importance, visibility, and public awareness of government. The NY State Assembly reinforced its dedication to strengthening public participation and transparency in government by voting on and passing a six-bill legislative package addressing New York's Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws.
Of these six bills, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s bill A.5726-A waives the ability of government agencies in New York to claim copyright protection except where the record reflects artistic creation, or scientific or academic research. There have been instances where government has charged more than the actual cost to obtain documents or has denied dissemination of public information using copyright protection to legitimize these denials. Both of these obstruct the ability of the public to thoughtfully participate in government.
“It is important that government information be available to all those who request it through the Freedom of Information Act without having to pay a high premium for that information or being denied this information because government claimed a copyright and refused the FOIL request,” stated Galef. “We need to clarify the use of governmental copyright and assure the public’s right to acquire information so we can continue to evolve and improve with the help of public input.”
Other bills included in the Sunshine Week package were:
- Assemblyman Pretlow’s bill A.5873 which directs public bodies to conduct meetings in facilities accommodating to public attendance
- Assemblywoman Hyer-Spencer’s legislation A.6371 that allows agencies to charge for postage when records are mailed through a FOIL request, and waives fees for the reproduction of records
- Assemblyman Latimer’s bill A.6484-A which limits the time state agencies have to appeal to article 78 Supreme Court judgments against them for violations of freedom of information laws
- Assemblywoman Destito’s bill A.10093 that allows meetings of public bodies to be recorded, photographed and broadcast
- Assemblywoman Destito’s bill that authorizes the court to declare that a public body has violated the open meetings law or to declare that actions taken by a public body are void.
All of the aforementioned bills have passed the Assembly as part of a government reform package the Assembly has advanced in celebration of Sunshine Week. The package of bills was aimed at strengthening government’s transparency and openness.